Saturday, 5 September 2015

Hypocrites or Hippocrates

Memories of the family doctor paying house calls and enquiring, in leisurely fashion about the well-being of some common acquaintance seem to have become just that - a throw-back to times when people had time to write long six page letters by hand, and to observe common pleasantries in human relations.

Today, if you have the misfortune of needing the services of a doctor, there is little sign or time for pleasantries. The first few impressions are negative in the extreme: firstly, you are asked to come to a clinic at something like 7 am on a working day. One thing the receptionist will be prompt about is to get you to register (Rs. N(1) down `for consultation' if you are given a bill); secondly, it is not at all uncommon to be asked a half-hour later to go and get some test done (Rs. N(2) more down, before you may have even seen the doctor). If you are lucky, your name will be called at 11.30 am, and you finally get to see the Wizard of Oz - who will then ring a bell, in response to which one of the crisply uniformed young women who talked to you about N(k) for some k, will come in bearing a file, after glancing quickly at which, the Wizard will scribble something on the last page which can only be deciphered by another Wizard, and you will be informed that you have to buy a certain list of medicines (another N(3) + ... +(N(k) down), consume them at specified times and in specified amounts, and the smart young woman will escort you to a counter to give you the prescription. In all this while, the Wizard will not have breathed a word describing your condition or its potential future course.

The title refers to the fact that all doctors, upon - or maybe even before - earning the right to cure the unwell, have to take the so-called Hippocratic oath. Let me interject a couple of sentences from that oath (in italics) in the text below to drive home some points that needs to be made:

I will hang out my neck and say many (most?) of our doctors have to pay huge bribes before they can get admitted into a suitable programme; and this money must be recovered. Their equivalent of the bookie for our IPL cricketeers are agents from various pharmaceutical companies who line up at their clinics trying to convince them to prescribe the medicines whose samples their bags are full of! I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. The clinics mushrooming around the country are all acquiring their own scanning machines of various kinds (all of which cost BIG sums of money); is it any wonder that you keep getting asked to get a plethora of tests and scans done even when you are merely suffering from a stomach ache, and buy a slew of medicines which are often totally unnecessary?

The point of this post, however, is really to point out the obstacles they put in the way of people with disabilities (God help them particularly if they are of the `mentally ill' variety). Here are a couple of instances reported in the papers not long ago illustrating the horrible levels that the interpretations of the Hippocratic oath (I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm) have descended to:


Can't a hospital which advertises itself as accepting insurance policies for people with disabilities be sued in court for refusing to take in such a patient?

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